For a few moments on the way to Monday’s 38-3 razing of the New York Jets, the Buffalo Bills looked doomed to run their streak of letting a dominant defensive performance go to waste and a winnable game slip away to three in a row.
Despite allowing the New York Jets to move the football forward by all of 35 yards over the first quarter and a half, while scoring their first touchdown in more than two full games, the Bills—riding a wave of misfortune that included come-from-ahead losses to Kansas City and Miami, as well as the rather inconvenient snowfall that forced the game to be delayed by a day and moved to Detroit—led only 7-3 when Michael Vick took the field with 9:27 remaining before halftime.
Vick, who had not completed a pass gaining more than 5 yards to that point, hooked up with Jerome Kerley for 10. Chris Ivory went up the gut for 11 more, putting New York at Buffalo’s 34. At the least, Vick had his offense within range of a long field goal. At the most, Vick seemed poised to make like Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill by giving his team a lead that it had not done much to deserve, but would never surrender.
Then New York pulled off perhaps the Jetsiest sequence the Jets have ever Jetsed.
They failed to get the ball snapped before taking a delay-of-game penalty. Even after getting another 25 seconds following the infraction, they still couldn’t get a play called and had to use a timeout before being forced to retreat another five yards.
Two plays later, Mario Williams struck, chasing Vick down from behind for a 9-yard sack. After the Jets showed they have as much trouble with the snap count as the play clock with a false-start penalty and Williams harassed Vick into an incompletion, they punted away the ball and what would be their last, best chance at the game.
Buffalo had one more shot at Billsing it up. Kyle Orton, in the midst of easily his best overall performance since taking over for E.J. Manuel in Week 5, had completed seven of nine throws to move the Bills from their own 10-yard line to a first-and-goal from New York’s 9.
Whereupon he slowly retreated from the Jets’ pass rush, which quickly caught up to him for a 10-yard loss. At that point, expectations dwindled from a touchdown that would create a double-digit cushion going into halftime to maybe a field goal that would keep the Jets hanging around. Just like the Chiefs. And the Dolphins.
Instead, Orton zipped one down the middle to Scott Chandler, who celebrated Buffalo’s second touchdown of the game—the first time his team had reached that modest milestone since thrashing the Jets 43-23 on Oct. 26—with some deft snow-shoveling pantomime.
At that point, the Jets appeared to call it a season. There’s no way to know what Rex Ryan said to inspire his team at halftime, but the way it performed the rest of the night, “Hey, let’s be careful out there,” or “Boy, you guys suck,” sounds about right.
Early in the third quarter, Boobie Dixon bulldozed Zach Sudfeld close enough to Jets punter Ryan Quigley (to whom Artvoice Editor Buck Quigley categorically denies being related)—the guy Sudfeld was supposed to be protecting—to swat the ball into the end zone, where Manny Lawson cradled it for a 24-3 lead.
From there, the Bills kept pounding on Vick, sacking him five times in just 25 drop-backs, until he limped to the sideline with a severely bruised everything.
It would be tough to overstate the Jets’ lousiness. I’ve covered hundreds of NFL press conferences over the years, but never heard a coach use words like “horrible” or “awful” to describe their team. Ryan used both.
“A horrible performance,” Ryan said. “We couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t block, couldn’t tackle, couldn’t cover. It was just an awful performance.”
True as that may be, New York’s incompetence and apathy don’t negate Buffalo’s positives:
• Williams delivered his second straight multi-sack game, giving him 5.5 in his last two outings and 12 on the season, and along with linemates Jerry Hughes (two sacks) and Kyle Williams (one), generally laid waste to New York’s offensive plans.
• While the Jets kept Sammy Watkins quiet, they had no answer for Robert Woods. The second-year receiver posted career highs with nine catches for 118 yards, including Buffalo’s first touchdown and possibly the sweetest catch made by anyone not named Odell Beckham Jr. all season.
• Orton completed 75 percent of his passes, did not turn the ball over and failed to provide know-it-all columnists any reason to call for his benching.
All of which sustains Buffalo’s fond, but flickering hopes of ending its 15-year playoff absence until at least Sunday, when fellow borderline contender Cleveland comes to town.